Unlike Sunny, I found a lot in Nick Clegg’s speech at Demos that I agreed with. I have some areas of disagreement with the Lib Dems but I think that Clegg lays out a more coherent case for a centre-left democracy than either New or Old Labour.
Take taxation. The present government has always obsessed with being revenue neutral. Rather than making a bargain with the public in which slightly higher taxes will lead to better public services, they have tried to have it both ways.
During the economic bubble, rather than taking action to regulate the financial services sector and reducing Britain’s dependency on it, they let it inflate so that the additional tax revenues would finance the increases in public spending.
Another example would be the use of the taxes on petrol. I agree with the government’s policy of implementing these taxes as I think that its essential that governments across the world wean consumers of inefficient petrol use. Unfortunately the revenue from this hasn’t been invested in improved road infrastructure or high speed rail links.
Education is another problem area. A skilled workforce doesn’t just mean having everyone to university. It also requires the government to increase educational standards in secondary school for people who don’t go on to university and and invest in a system providing vocational training.
I think Clegg is definitely right to distinguish between liberal and conservative capitalism. Championing the necessities of appropriate govt regulation is not libertarian or laissez-fairre economics by any stretch of the imagination. Although New Labour is hardly socialist, 3rd way thinking and and triangulation is not the same as governing from the centre-left.
The stuff about the innate goodness of people is guff but thats politics. After all, even Obama is in the business of peddling hope and constantly reminded America of how they were the greatest country and had great people and all that.
Do the Lib Dems have the grass roots capability of challenging at the next election – probably not. Would the left be better having only one party – quite possibly. You can diss the Lib Dem Party but right now people like Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and Vince Cable have in my opinion the best ideas of how a centre-left country should operate in a 21st century global economy. Don’t ignore their ideas.
(P.S If the Conservatives do somehow get in power in the next election I hope that its in coalition with the Lib Dems and that Vince Cable rather than George Osborne is the next chancellor. David Cameron doesn’t seem too bad but Osborne seems to epitomise the Americanised, ‘market is always right’, more libertarian wing of the Conservative party)
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Filed in: Current affairs,Economics,Party politics